PoLTE cites progress in road to commercializing LTE-based location technology

There’s a new location technology in town, and it’s right before everyone’s eyes, so to speak. After conducting initial tests with Tier 1 operators, PoLTE Corporation is moving to the next stage toward commercializing a technology called Positioning over LTE (PoLTE).

Like it sounds, PoLTE uses the existing LTE networks that wireless operators have deployed across the United States and elsewhere. PoLTE Device requires a minor firmware upgrade to capture the signal that arrives at the device, but it doesn’t require changes to the LTE network equipment or the tower site.

It’s not based on a standard—an approach that has been tried but only to a limited extent, according to PoLTE company executives. It uses Time Difference of Arrival (TDOA) but differs from some other techniques in that it uses the cell reference signal, in part because it’s prevalent in LTE networks around the world and operators based in the U.S. need to be able to offer global capabilities to their Internet of Things (IoT) customers.

The IoT is one of the main markets where PoLTE sees demand for its location technology, but operators have suggested their own ideas, including internally to get a better read on the location of their own customers, according to John Dow, president and COO at PoLTE.

Use cases range from basic theft recovery to those who want to track the location of assets as they move throughout the world.  

“We’re really letting the operators themselves kind of guide the use” and market opportunity, Dow said.

Of course, better indoor positioning is required for public safety to locate wireless callers indoors, but PoLTE is not targeting that market initially. That may come later, but for business reasons, it’s focusing on other areas, such as IoT, according to Dow.

PoLTE said it uses advanced radar location techniques to transform reference signals embedded in an LTE transmission into precise location. It’s able to offer superior performance through the use of patented super resolution algorithms, which can provide upwards of 10 times the resolution or location accuracy as compared to legacy approaches.

The company said inherent security is provided through the LTE network—and using LTE is ideal because it doesn't require any other technology like Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to add location capabilities.

RELATED: Wi-Fi Alliance introduces certification for better indoor positioning

The company has done tests in the U.S. with two Tier 1 operators to conduct initial proofs of concept and trials and to show it works both inside and outside buildings and moving at high speeds. Now it’s working with modem manufacturers and platform providers to fill out the ecosystem.

“I think we’ve proven the capability to a large extent, now we’re proving that it can be applied in an environment that they can commercialize,” Dow said.

One of PoLTE’s big achievements is the application of super resolution algorithms, something that has been used widely in speech recognition, image processing and radar, said PoLTE CEO Russ Markhovsky. The company took that underlying capability and migrated it to work with OFDM signals, and specifically LTE. 

“It took a while,” he said, but ultimately adds a bit of a secret sauce to PoLTE's proposition.

Since then, academic papers have been written advancing the very idea of using super resolution algorithms to improve location, but those were independent of what PoLTE has done.

“We got there first, and now it’s about bringing it to market,” Dow said.

Article updated March 25 to identify the product as PoLTE Device, not PoLTE Macro.